DoPP Executive Director retires

Tech’s Division of Professional Practice (DoPP) is one of the oldest and largest programs on campus, involving around 4,000 Georgia Tech students. DoPP’s long-time Executive Director Tom Akins has been a leading figure in the department’s progress.

Akins, a former graduate of the Industrial Engineering department and Tech’s Co-op Program, has been a long-time figure on campus.

In 1976, Akins returned to Tech as the Assistant Director of the Cooperative Division. In the position, he oversaw the admissions into the Co-op Program, orientations of all new students and student advisement within the division.

A year later, he garnered a Masters in Business Administration from Georgia State University.

“I wanted to go to back into industry, that was the plan,” says Akins, referring to his choice for coming back to take the Assistant Director position, “but I was having so much fun. And I continued to have fun,” said Atkins.

In 1990, Akins was named the Director of the Cooperative Division. Then, in 2002, he became the Executive Director of the Division of Professional Practice, under which title he oversaw all co-ops and undergraduate internships.

“When I became the Director of the Cooperative Division, there were only one or two computers,” said Akins when asked about the initial goals he had for the Co-op program, “The primary thing I wanted to do was to make the department more efficient, bring technology more into our work place to help improve some of the process and procedures.”

There are four divisions of the Division of Professional Practice. The Undergraduate Cooperative Education Program, the oldest of the four sectors of the DoPP, has existed for over 90 years and is the largest optional cooperative education program in the nation.

The Undergraduate Professional Internship Program, another sector of the DoPP, allows students to gain work experience if they cannot or choose not to obtain a co-op. The last two sectors are the Graduate Cooperative Program and the Work Abroad Program.

The DoPP, according to Akins, has two major benefits for students. First, it allows them to figure out what they want to do but, more essentially, what they don’t want to do. Akins himself, co-oped as an undergraduate student at Tech. He worked for a grocery store chain, as an intern in the Inventory Department.

“I knew I didn’t want to do that when I graduated, even though I was good at it,” he says. The second most valuable thing to gain from the co-op program is experience. Doing a co-op and actually getting the hands-on experience “teaches skills that can’t be taught in a classroom,” said Atkins.

Along with his involvement within DoPP, Akins has also been very involved on the Tech campus. He has been elected to multiple terms to the Institute’s Faculty Assembly, Academic Senate, and Executive Board, and has also served on search and standing committees.

Akins has also been involved nationally and internationally in Cooperative Education. He has been involved in the Cooperative Education Division (CED) of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), where he has served two years as Secretary-Treasurer, a one-year term as Chair-Elect and one term as Chairman.

In 1998, he received the Borman Award from CED for his contribution to the Cooperative Education Field. He is the current president of the Accreditation Council for Cooperative Education. Internationally, he holds a membership to World Association for Co-operative Education (WACE), among others.

Akins is retiring in March after 34 years with the department but will not be leaving the DoPP entirely. He plans to work on the centennial celebration for the Cooperative Program. Later goals include a Co-op Alumni Hall of Fame that recognizes the work of some Alumni and their contribution to Tech and also a commemorative book detailing the history of the Cooperative Program at Tech.

“I would like to see [the DoPP] to become the umbrella organization for all experiential learning. The students at Georgia Tech should receive the best education,” said Atkins.

To all the student body, for which he has been working for during the last 34 years, Atkin’s parting message is, “make the most of your education at Georgia Tech. It has so much to offer. Make the most of every opportunity. And don’t forget to give back. To Hell With Georgia!”